Penn developed a physical therapy program that varies depending on the severity of each patient’s symptoms. “For some patients who have been really seriously affected and unable to do any activity, how do we build back on the housework they have to do every day? How do we manage this during the day so that you don’t have to do everything at once? “
For those with less severe symptoms, the focus is on gradually getting active again and keeping the heart rate at 60 to 70 percent of its maximum for now. “If they tolerate it and agree to it for a week or two, we’ll build on it,” he said.
Long-distance Covid patients tend to “have a honeymoon, maybe two or three weeks after the acute illness,” said Dr. R. Kannan Mutharasan, cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and co-program director of exercise cardiology. “You’re finally feeling back to yourself and saying, ‘I’m going to run,'” he said. But afterwards they notice that they don’t feel the way they used to. A few weeks later, they may experience “things like lightheadedness or a fast heartbeat even while walking.”
That happened to one of his patients, Hannah Engle, 23, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last July. She tried running again in October and her heart rate rose to 210 beats per minute. She is now on her way to take it slow, but there are still setbacks if she overdoes it. In May, for example, she began to experience chest pain and dizziness after what appeared to be a simple exercise with jumping jacks and stretching.
Ms. Engle has always been an active person. As a child, she competed in diving, cheerleading, and gymnastics, and even did gymnastics at club level through college. After graduation, she remained active while working in Arlington, Virginia through CrossFit, weightlifting, and 3-mile running to encourage people to move into the STEM areas – science, technology, engineering, and math.